If you’ve been following the global gaming community over the past week or so, you probably heard the kerfuffle involving Respawn’s debut game Titanfall: its multiplayer will only be 6 versus 6, and the matches will be padded out by bots. This isn’t particularly new news, but for some reason it hit the mainstream last week and some people went a little crazy.
This reaction is difficult to understand. First of all, some of the world’s most popular multiplayer games have low player counts. Counter-Strike? 5v5. League of Legends? Ditto. There’s nothing inherently un-fun about playing with only 11 other people at one time.
Moreover, as many outlets have pointed out, limiting the game to 6v6 is a design decision that’s based on the game’s titular Titans; giant mechs that tower over the battlefield and wreak havoc. Players can call these down at their convenience, and if there were 32 players in a game the result could be utter chaos, with maps so packed with mechs that no one could really move. Instead, Respawn opted to limit the real player count and fill matches out with bots that won’t call down Titans, ensuring that you’re never playing a game with 25 Titans roaming around wreaking havoc at the same time.
People also balk at the idea of having bots in a shooter, but that approach is widely accepted in other games (MOBA games have proven that bots have a place in games even at the highest competitive levels) and it seems to make sense for the design here.
The bottom line, though, is that how many players a game supports, or how many bots it has, is irrelevant. What’s important is whether or not the game is fun. And for Titanfall, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
I know this got the chance to play Titanfall at TGS this year. I didn’t write about it because at the time Games in Asia wasn’t covering triple-A global games, but I managed to squeeze a free hour for myself during our time at the show so I could try it out anyway.
It’s been too long now for me to write an in-depth preview — and since I was just playing it for fun I didn’t take notes anyway — but I can tell you one thing: Titanfall is fun. In fact, the round that I played was probably the most fun I’ve had playing a multiplayer shooter since Call of Duty IV: Modern Warfare.
The controls are absolutely pitch-perfect, so much so that your actions in the game feel completely natural to control within a minute or two of picking up the gamepad. The jumping/parkour mechanics and the Titans both add some much-needed variety when compared with the mountain of modern military shooters currently cluttering up store shelves. The balancing was, as far as I could tell from one fifteen-minute match, excellent. When I died, I felt like I knew why, and when I scored a kill, I felt like I’d accomplished it using my own skill. The game even looks good.
And remember, this was a demo build that I played last September. At the time, the game was more than six months away from its release date, and it already felt more polished than a lot of titles do when they’re released.
Of course, a lot of things could go wrong with Titanfall, but at the risk of sounding like I’m on Respawn’s payroll (I’m not) or like I’ve drunk the kool-aid (I hate kool-aid), I don’t think that’s likely. The folks at the head of Respawn are the same team that created the good Call of Duty games (i.e. not this one), and based on my experience with Titanfall I think we can expect the same level of polish in this game when it comes out in March.
It may be 6v6, but I’ve played it, and I’m telling you that it’s damn fun. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for in games anyway?